This post has been superseded by the Pin Programs to the Taskbar in Windows 10 with Group Policy article. You can continue reading below for an overview of how pinning works at the OS level. The article below also contains two corny jokes.
The Taskbar in Windows 7 and the Start Screen in Windows 8 are the first places your users should go to access their applications. Unfortunately, users do not take advantage of these locations by pinning programs. Instead, they will cumbersomely search the Start Menu or minimize twelve applications to get to the desktop. It is time to make their life a bit easier!
In part one of this two part series, we will cover pinning programs to the Taskbar with Group Policy. In part 2, we will cover similar tricks for managing the Windows 8 Start Screen. No matter your OS, making applications easier to access will certainly make your staff happier!
How Can I Pin Programs to the Taskbar with Group Policy?
Not as easy as you would think. It can’t be done with Administrative Templates. Though you can use Group Policy Preferences, it isn’t fun or flexible. The best way (so far) seems to be with Group Policy Scripts. Here is the funny thing about programs that are pinned to the Taskbar. They aren’t exactly stored clearly or cleanly.
For an application to show up on the Taskbar, it must have a corresponding shortcut and appear in a specific registry value. The shortcut must exist under the current user’s roaming appdata (%APPDATA%). The exact location is at: %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Launch\User Pinned\TaskBar
The registry key is the tricky part of this equation as the program values are stored in the Taskband Current User registry key. This key can be found at: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Taskband. And it looks like:
Because the values above are unique to the specific programs pinned, you can deploy this registry key (along with a shortcut preference). This way involves a bit of work and isn’t self documenting. It does work if you have one standard taskbar for your environment that doesn’t change. For a simpler way, keep reading.
Pinning Programs to the Taskbar with Group Policy Scripts
Back in 2009, Microsoft released a pretty cool script that makes pinning programs a breeze. Lucky for me, a co-worker found this script and shared it. To get started, copy the script within this ZIP file to a network share. Your users will need read/execute rights to this script.
Next, create a new blank batch file to call this script. The script syntax looks like:
cscript "\\PATH\pinitem.vbs" /item:"C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Microsoft Office 2013\Outlook 2013.lnk" /taskbar
If you wish to pin multiple programs, just copy this line multiple times and change the /item path to the new application. In our environment, we pin five applications with no noticeable logon impact.
Once your batch file is complete, add it to a GPO that is linked to your users or use loopback to apply the taskbar to specific set of computers. On the next logon, your specified programs will appear on the Taskbar. If your users unpin the application, it will reappear on the next logon.